Edentulism and Lack of Dental Care Indicate Greater Cognitive Decline, Study Shows
A new longitudinal cohort study reveals that edentulism, the condition of being toothless, and a lack of routine dental care are significant predictors of cognitive decline over a decade. The research was conducted using a representative sample of American adults over 50 years old, from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study.
The study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, involved participants who had cognitive interview data available and had responded to the question, “Have you lost all of your upper and lower natural permanent teeth?” at two or more intervals between 2006 and 2018. Researchers also considered the use of dental care by participants in the last two years.
The analysis utilized linear mixed models for repeated measures to determine the trajectories of average cognition over time for different birth cohorts. These models adjusted for baseline cognition, dentition status, use of dental care, and other covariates such as demographic characteristics, health behaviors, and medical conditions.
The researchers found that older cohorts displayed a more significant cognitive decline than their younger counterparts. Notable protective factors against cognitive decline, as indicated by the linear mixed-model estimates and 95% confidence intervals, included higher baseline cognition, use of dental care in the past two years, higher household wealth, and being married.
Conversely, factors that increased risk included edentulism, a history of stroke or diabetes, lower education levels, Medicaid recipient status, current smoking habits, loneliness, and self-rated health as poor or fair.
The study concludes, “Edentulism and irregular dental care are among important predictors of cognitive decline.” The authors, Jones JA, Moss K, Finlayson TL, Preisser JS, Weintraub JA, underscore the importance of maintaining oral health and regular dental care throughout life for the preservation of cognitive health.
The full study, “Edentulism Predicts Cognitive Decline in the US Health and Retirement Cohort Study,” is available in the Journal of Dental Research. 2023;102(8):863-870. doi:10.1177/00220345231167805.